Thursday, October 20, 2005

Gameday - Phoenix at Vancouver

The Phoenix Coyotes are in town for the second time this season. In their last matchup on opening night Vancouver defeated Phoenix 3-2. However this is a different Coyotes team than the one that opened the season. Both teams are currently playing their best hockey of the season.

Vancouver Canucks (5-1-1)

Vancouver is coming off a 6-2 victory over Chicago and have won three in a row.

The Canucks have their power-play rolling, now 12th in the league at 18.%, and while their penalty kill continues to struggle (70.5%) they are doing an excellent job of staying out of the box (34 times shorthanded, tied for 4th best in league).

Vancouver's top line had their best game of the season against Chicago, Todd Bertuzzi and Brendan Morrison we're much better than they have been all year. With all 4 lines and defense contributing, the offence is in top form.

Now that the big line is playing well you can expect to see more consistency on the forward lines. Lee Goren has settled into the physical 4th line with Linden and Ruutu, while the third line of Cooke, Kesler and Park have provided excellent speed and a strong forecheck. All things considered, the Canucks have a well balanced forward group.

On the defensive side of things the Canucks have done a pretty good job. In 5 on 5 play the Canucks have only given up nine goals, good for 9th in the league. If they can continue staying out of the box (nearly half their goals against have been while shorthanded) they should be tough to score on.

Dan Cloutier is expected to get the start, should things change today I'll try and post an update.

Phoenix Coyotes (3-4-1)

Led by the excellent play of Curtis Joseph the Coyotes are coming off a two game sweep of Alberta.

As mentioned earlier this is a different team than the one we saw on opening night. Brett Hull retired suddenly on Saturday. On Tuesday they traded centre Jeff Taffe to the Rangers in exchange for Jamie Lundmark. On the 8th they traded LW Jason Chimera, D Cale Hulse and C Mike Rupp to Columbus for former Canuck Geoff Sanderson and RW Tim Jackman. Petr Nedved and Ladislav Nagy have both returned from the injured reserve, however they have lost Denis Gauthier(broken finger) and Mike Ricci(broken nose).

Oleg Saprykin and Paul Mara lead the team in scoring with 6pts each, while Mike Comrie is stuggling (2 assists, -4).

The key to the Coyotes' success has been Curtis Joseph. In 5 games Joseph is 3-2 with a 1.80 GAA and .930 Sv%. Cujo is looking for his 400th career victory.

On special teams, Phoenix has the 8th best power play at 21.2%, while their penalty kill is 18th at 81.4%.

Keys to the Game

  1. Special Teams & Discipline. Give them opportunities and Vancouver will beat you on the power play. Phoenix has to limit Vancouver's chances and they must capitalize on their own.
  2. Curtis Joseph. For Phoenix to win, Joseph will have to be the difference.
  3. Focus on tonight. With the most anticipated game of the year coming up on Saturday, Vancouver must remain focused on tonight. If they start the way they have the past three games only Joseph and special teams can prevent them from winning this one.

TV: 7:00 RSN

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